Greta Kline has already amassed a larger catalog of music at the age of 24 than most artists will in a lifetime. After a record two-year break from dropping music, the songwriter behind NY indie band Frankie Cosmos will be releasing Vessel on Friday (March 30), her 52nd work to date and second for Sub Pop (following 2016’s Next Thing). Featuring some of her most energized, intricate and longest songs to date, Kline proves she can continue composing captivating narratives in less than a minute, or in upwards of three-and-a-half. It’s arguably her best record yet. A few weeks ago Kline took some time during a much-needed break between tours to speak to Billboard about what the process meant to her, how it feels to be an established artist with a wide-eyed audience, and how her come-up in DIY is still influencing her career today.
So now that you’ve had a couple years to reflect, how did the whole process of Next Thing — the recording, release cycle — feel different from your previous releases? Being that it was your first release on Sub Pop.
It’s funny cause I feel like it’s still super fresh. It still feels really different, I guess. We were playing the songs live for probably two years before playing that record. So it just felt like such a longer process. The first time we put out an album in a physical way on a label, I just had no expectations at all. There was no plan. It was just for fun and it just kind of spiraled out of our control… which is awesome. Since then I’ve just been trying to continuously maintain having no expectations. Not thinking that anything is necessarily going to grow. Which is just the attitude I need to not be freaking out about stuff. The thing that’s maybe the most different this time around is that Sub Pop doesn’t do premieres. That’s been nice cause it puts less weight on reviews for me.
So you pay close attention to reviews of your music?
It’s definitely just, like, freaky knowing that anyone’s gonna hear any song that I write. The songs are so personal to me and so special to me and to the band, and we love playing them together and that’s why they’re on the album. Making that anyone else’s business just feels super weird. I definitely try to withhold from reading all that stuff and just taking it too personally. I’m just trying to hold onto my own relationship with the songs. I have to figure out how I feel about these songs before I dig into someone else’s interpretation of it. Once you put a song out, you don’t really get to say what it really means cause it means something different to each person…just in the context of each person’s life that they’re hearing it. The images that come to mind when I play certain songs, like the memories that I link with that, they only exist for me. No one else is going to see what I’m evoking for myself, so it’s interesting to see what it does for other people.
The gap between Vessel and Next Thing was two years, which was the longest period between releases of your whole career, right? Was it hard for you to resist releasing stuff in that time or has that inclination to drop gobs of music subsided?
It wasn’t too hard. I feel like I’ve developed a lot of ways of playing the same stuff on tour. It became really interesting to me to be playing all the songs off Next Thing years after having written them. They started to change meaning for me and I started finding new ways to connect with them. I think the hard thing is that I’m always the most excited about whatever song I’ve just written. So every time I write a song I’m like, this is the best song I’ve ever written. I’ve probably written 50 more songs since Vessel. I’ve kind of learned to figure out how to just focus on being excited about the stuff that we’re touring with and be able to be like, well I wrote these songs and I’m excited about them, and we’ll get to play them eventually. After so long, the songs almost feel new again. Some of the songs on Vessel [almost] feel like I didn’t write them.
Up-and-coming artists like Sidney Gish and Clairo are citing you as a reference, particularly Clairo with that “Leonie” cover. How does it feel to be at a point where you’re now influencing other artists?
That’s definitely super crazy and nice. I guess it’s weird, too. I think something that Frankie Cosmos does for other people, and a lot of other artists did this for me as well, is making it sound like it’s easy to do music. I have a lot of young people telling me that they didn’t think they could play music, and now they do that, which is awesome. And I think it’s cool cause it’s not necessarily stuck to one genre. Because I feel like my music is very different than [Clairo’s].
You had your come-up self-releasing music and playing DIY shows, so how does it feel now to be a couple years out of that musical lifestyle?
I do miss a lot of aspects of that stuff and I think it’s really fun to hold onto and keep a lot of the aspects of that with us when we do what we’re doing now. I’ve done all the merch myself up until this coming tour. It helps me feel like part of the crowd and part of the audience. I think when you sequester yourself to the green room you don’t remember why you’re there. It’s fun for me to just be, like, hanging out. I highly recommend every artist should do DIY touring at some point. Most people that I’m friends with is through that. I think there’s a camaraderie between all touring musicians, but when you are just sleeping in someone’s house on their floor, you have to become their friend.
What are the biggest things you wish for fans to get out of Vessel?
It’s so hard to answer questions like that ’cause I feel like every album is just another chapter of me. It’s not necessarily more important than the other ones. Maybe I’m making this up, but for me it has a lot of inner tension and not fully understanding how you feel, and it’s about learning how to accept feeling in between and not having closure. You can change all the time and you don’t have to define yourself in, like, a nutshell for everyone. I think that’s something that I would’ve liked to learn as a younger person. To know that someone who might be a public figure or an artist doesn’t necessarily know who they are, and isn’t finished becoming who they are—and that’s okay. When I was younger everything was a little more black and white, and now I’m like, you can not know. And I’m okay with not knowing. Forever.